By no means did Monday night's game with Midland Lutheran start out as one of Northwest Missouri State's best defensively.
But that's sure how it ended up.
With 9:32 left in the first half, Midland Lutheran had already scored 18 points and trailed by just four.
Over the remaining 29:28, Northwest allowed just 27 more points and distanced itself plenty for a 78-45 win in the non-conference finale at Bearcat Arena.
The Bearcats improved to 8-2 overall, winning for the fourth consecutive time to conclude their pre-holiday schedule.
"I feel like we walked into the game not prepared," said Northwest Missouri State starting point guard Monique Stevens. "Christmas break is obviously right now, so everyone was kind of excited to get home. I didn't think we were fully focused on the game. Coach said there were a couple distractions and we just had to go out there and take care of business. I feel like when we got in the game we realized we had to play we defense. We had to step it up a notch."
Midland Lutheran's 45 points were the third fewest allowed by Northwest this year.
The Warriors (5-9) made just five second half field goals until the final minute and shot 15-47 (31.9 percent) from the field overall.
They also turned it over 29 times and Northwest finished with a 32-10 advantage in points off turnovers.
"We got out of the press and out of the zone is what we changed, but I don't know if that was it or we just kind of picked up the effort and the intensity and probably turned them over a little bit," said Northwest Missouri State head coach Mark Kellogg. "That led to some easier points to get a little bit of separation because we just traded baskets for the first 10 minutes or so."
The game was tied once at 8 early on and Northwest led 22-18 at the second media timeout.
Northwest held Lutheran to two points over the next 7:30 and grew its lead to 35-20 on a four-point play by Ashleigh Nelson.
The Warriors scored the final four points of the half and the first two of the second half to cut Northwest's lead to nine.
Northwest outscored Midland Lutheran 43-19 the rest of the way and went up as many as 36.
"We wanted to tweak the defense to lead to some easier offense," said Kellogg. "We just worked pretty hard and we weren't making shots. We wanted to go inside a little bit more which I thought we did. We challenged them to play a little harder, a little smarter. These games are tough. You got distractions all over the place. They know they're going home after the game. I think once we settled in we were a little bit better."
Page 2 of 2 - Northwest was at its best offensively over the first 10 minutes and throughout the second half when it shot 47 percent, made 14-17 free throws and scored 43 points.
Eight of the 10 players that saw the court contributed at least four points and three were in double-figures.
Sophomore center Maggie Marnin had a dominant game inside, finishing with 19 points on 8-13 shooting. Meridee Scott had 11 second half points to finish with 14.
Stevens hit her first four shots and scored Northwest's first six points.
She finished with 13, while adding seven rebounds and five assists.
"She's our leader," said Kellogg. "We trust her with the offense. She can get after it defensively. She probably needed that because Lindenwood was just daring her to shoot. When she gets it going, it just adds another dimension. It gives us complete balance really."
Nelson finished just shy of double-figures with nine points.
Annie Mathews added eight points and seven rebounds, while Alexis Boeh totaled seven points and four rebounds.
Midland Lutheran's two high scorers were Jami Thramer and Kellie Page, each with eight points.
The Bearcats have the next nine days off for the holidays and don't play again until Jan. 3 at Missouri Southern.
It's the first of three straight away from Bearcat Arena against teams picked ahead of them in the conference.
"I completely understand what's coming," said Kellogg. "I don't think we're at the level where you need to be. I think you feel good about, but the gauntlet is coming. We beat some decent teams, but I don't think we have any great wins yet on our record. That will come in the second half, at least we'll have some opportunities to get some of those."